Joanne Buckley: counsellor, coach and mentor

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Joanne Buckley likes her job.

She is an academic counsellor and learning strategist at McMaster’s Student Accessibility Services (SAS)  and she loves to counsel, coach and mentor students.  The gratitude she gets from students reminds her why she teaches writing.

“Because it is so sensitive. Because somebody’s soul is on the page, when they write something dear to them,” she says.

“And you see the light just go on. That’s the best kind of thing,” she says.


A scholar, writer and educator, Joanne Buckley mentors students in writing. (Photo by: Alyssa Lai/Illuminessence)

Mastery in the art of writing

Buckley has five degrees including Bachelors degrees in English and French and believes that the art of writing eloquently is not so much a given skill but one that takes practice.  If there is such a thing as “teaching writing,” she thinks it deserves more emphasis.

“Teaching writing was considered kind of lowly. I don’t see teaching writing that way. It is not really a remedial thing,” says Buckley, who also holds a PhD in English, two Masters in Education and a TESL certificate.

“You win a Nobel prize in literature, you’re a writer. Doesn’t mean you’re done and you don’t have to learn how to use language and work with language. So I like the developmental approach to it, rather than the remedial approach.”


Joanne Buckley enjoys her interaction with students and seeing them master writing (Photo by: Alyssa Lai/Illuminessence)

Accomplished scholar and author

Buckley’s work in teaching writing extends beyond the SAS. She is the author of Fit to Print (published in 1991), a comprehensive guide to the writing process, which includes style and documentation.

Since then, Buckley has written six more editions.

More recently, Buckley published Checkmate: A Writing Reference for Canadians (3rd edition), which also uses writing examples from students in various disciplines. With her expertise, Buckley is often invited to present writing workshops and guest lectures.

Academic writing aside, she was also a restaurant reviewer for London Free Press, which she describes as a “glimpse of another world.” Her writing repertoire also includes serving as the editor of TEXT Technology, a journal on computer text processing.

Stigma in disability

Buckley has used a wheelchair for more than 20 years and she knows it sometimes has negative implications. When she was out in New York to watch a play with her male friend, Buckley remembers an odd remark directed to her male friend.
“Driver pulls out wheel chair and says, ‘That’s nice of you to take your mother to New York.’ So suddenly I became his mother,” she says in bewilderment.

“I don’t get seen. They see the wheelchair.”

To Buckley, these perceptions are the core of stigma in disability and she believes awareness is key to fighting stigma.

“Because it really has nothing much to do with the rest of the person. Disability sort of narrows down the expectation of what you’re doing and what you can do,”

says Buckley, who has been confined to a wheelchair for more than 20 years.

In her own words: advice to women with disabilities

Realize that everything is more superficial than you think. Realize that you can change people’s attitude a little.

And to try to remember that you are not necessarily who they see. You just capture another people’s perception of you.

It’s not going to be quick. People need more than awareness, sometimes they need to be told what needs to be done. There has to be a kind of determined and active approach. There is plenty of stigma about other things. So we need to fight that.

Alyssa Lai is a proud McMaster alumna with an alliterative degree, B.A. (Hons) in Communication Studies and Theatre and Film Studies. She asks questions, listens and capture stills showcasing Hamilton. More at